KINGSTON — The House of Representatives has suspended deliberations on the Corruption Prevention (Special Prosecutor) Act, as Members could not agree on some of the provisions in the Bill, at the sitting on June 1.
In leading the discussions, Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, suggested the suspension, and consultation between the leadership of the House on the issues.
“I will tell you why. Not for the first time, it has been pointed out that provisions that are being objected to here, are provisions that exist in several other statutes that we (have passed) and we don’t have a problem with it. In drafting legislation, the drafters are very careful, in order to be consistent, and whenever they are dealing with the same purpose and principle, they look at what we have in existing law. So, I think we need to have some discussions, because it cannot be without significance that we are stumbling on every single clause,” Mr. Golding said.
One of the main issues of departure on both sides of the House was the clause which gives the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) the authority to intervene in Special Prosecutor cases.
As set out in clause 30 of the Bill, the Special Prosecutor’s office may, “subject to the powers conferred upon the Director of Public Prosecutions by section 94 of the Constitution of Jamaica, institute, undertake, and have the conduct of any criminal proceedings which appear to the special prosecutor, on reasonable grounds, to involve corrupt conduct."
The Prime Minister sought to allay the concerns associated with this provision, explaining why the fear of sustained intervention from the DPP in the cases being carried out by the Special Prosecutor, was unwarranted.
“For example, up until recently, the Clerk of the Court didn’t relate to the DPP, except when the DPP exercised her authority to interfere in the case…but they were always mindful that the DPP at any stage could give them instructions, could say they are taking over the case, or say to them, do the case this way…but in most instances, they don’t hear from the DPP,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Golding noted that appropriate protocol to avoid overlap or conflict would have to be worked out between both offices. The Opposition agreed that there were adequate provisions for this.
In response to Member of Parliament for North West St. Catherine, Robert Pickersgill’s concern about the need for the investigative capabilities of the police to be improved in tandem with the establishment of offices, such as Independent Commission of Investigations, and the proposed office of the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Golding said the Commissioner of Police had, in fact, reported a higher level of conviction in cases, due to better quality investigations.
Questions were also raised about the provision which authorises the Special Prosecutor to engage the services of personnel who are not employed to that office.
Mr. Golding noted that such provisions existed in other legislation that have not been questioned, such as the Customs Act, which he pointed out authorises the actions of “any person acting in aid of an officer."
South East St. Andrew Member of Parliament, Maxine Henry Wilson suggested that the Bill be reviewed in full by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, in order to avoid compromising its legitimacy, due to extensive amendments.
Minister of Education and House Leader, Andrew Holness gave the undertaking that he would meet with the Leader of Opposition Business, establish a small committee, review the Bill, and report to the House at its next sitting on June 7, when the discussion will continue.
The Act, which repeals the Corruption (Prevention) Act, and the Parliamentary (Integrity of Members) Act, seeks to promote and strengthen measures for the detection, investigation, prevention and prosecution of corrupt conduct; and provide for the establishment of the Special Prosecutor’s office.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter